At a Glance
Of the birds classified as perching birds or 'songbirds,' the Common Raven is the largest, the size of a hawk. Often its deep croaking call will alert the observer to a pair of ravens soaring high overhead. An intelligent and remarkably adaptable bird, living as a scavenger and predator, it can survive at all seasons in surroundings as different as hot desert and high Arctic tundra. Once driven from much of its eastern range, the raven is now making a comeback.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Crows, Magpies, Jays, Perching Birds
Arroyos and Canyons, Coasts and Shorelines, Desert and Arid Habitats, Forests and Woodlands, High Mountains, Landfills and Dumps, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Tundra and Boreal Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Soaring
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Mostly permanent resident, but some wander in fall and winter, appearing south of breeding range.
21-27" (53-69 cm). Much larger than crows but best known by wedge-shaped tail, very thick bill, shaggy throat feathers. In Southwest, compare to Chihuahuan Raven.
About the size of a Heron, About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Fingered, Long, Narrow
Songs and Calls
Deep, varied, guttural croaking; a hollow wonk-wonk.
Croak/Quack, Odd, Raucous
Boreal and mountain forests, coastal cliffs, tundra, desert. Can live in a very wide array of habitats, from tundra above the Arctic Circle to hot desert areas of the southwest. Often in heavily forested country; may also live on prairies if good nest sites (on cliffs) exist nearby.
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4-6, sometimes 3-7. Greenish, blotched with olive or brown. Incubation is mostly or entirely by female, about 18-21 days. Male feeds female during incubation.
Both parents bring food for nestlings, and female broods them while they are small. Young leave nest about 5-6 weeks after hatching.
Typically forages in pairs, the two birds sometimes cooperating to flush out prey. Searches for nests, to eat the eggs or young birds. An opportunist, taking advantage of temporary food sources. Does most feeding on the ground. Often feeds as a scavenger, searching for carrion or visiting garbage dumps. In northern Alaska (Pt. Barrow) in winter, seen feeding at dump under artificial lights.
Omnivorous. May feed on practically anything, but majority of diet apparently is animal matter. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, including beetles, caterpillars, and others; also rodents, lizards, frogs, and eggs and young of other birds. Regularly eats carrion and garbage.
In courtship display, male soars, swoops, and tumbles in mid-air. Pair may soar high together; when perched, they touch bills, preen each other's feathers. Nest site is usually on ledge of rock cliff, or high in tall tree (especially conifer). May use same site year after year, adding material on top of old nest. Both sexes help build. Nest is a bulky basket of large sticks and twigs, with deep depression in center lined with grass, bark strips, moss, animal hair.
Ravens disappeared from much of the east and midwest before 1900. In recent decades they have been expanding their range again, especially in the northeast, spreading south into formerly occupied areas.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Common Raven. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Common Raven
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.